I am pretty much always telling people what I like. However, I tend to be someone who forgets what I like very quickly (because I’m ENFP/”a goldfish”). Thus, part of the fun for me in posting this newsletter of sorts is that it provides a shorthand guide later on when I want to tell people in person what they should read/listen to/eat. It’s nice to have an external place to download items from my brain. You can catch up on previous posts in this series here.
Terry Gross’ interview with Larry Wilmore. I spoke with an always-thought-provoking uncle the other day about Wilmore’s Correspondents’ Dinner comedy. I wasn’t surprised he felt differently about the tone and style of the event than I did. I’m a big fan of Larry Wilmore, and I respect that art is art. This next statement is not a direct dig at my uncle, but I believe white people in general, and especially white men, should listen more and weigh in with their opinions less.
Another from Fresh Air, which I listened to twice because I liked it so much, is her interview with Samantha Bee (favorite moment was the discussion about the “wrongiest wronghead” congressman)
Take this tip from a Georgian: next to the melted white queso served in Mexican restaurants across the south (but much to my oft-repeated dismay, inexplicably unheard of across New England), pimento cheese is the best spreadable cheese concoction around. Pretty much any recipe will do, as there’s not much to it, but word is that the best around is offered at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta. We’ll have to take their word for it though because it’s top secret, but here’s an attempt at a knockoff that went over well at Vivi’s 8th birthday party a few weeks ago.
I posted yesterday, and now I’m posting again today! Posting every day is certainly not my new plan, but I hope to be back to posting about once every week or two. Thanks for encouraging me to keep posting podcast recommendations! I feel great knowing that even one person enjoys them. I still listen to about an hour a day of radio at least, so I have plenty of material to share.
honoring the end as much as the beginning by my friend Lindsey Mead, who among other things is the most consistent writer of wonderful things on her blog of any blogger I know (seriously, a great blog to follow) and who has the rare ability to look even more fresh-faced and happy-looking in person than in pictures
5 Books to Teach Kids Kindness by Cup of Jo—You probably know her blog already, but in case you don’t, I could have posted anything else I’ve ever read. Her curatorial ability is fantastic both for its breadth but also her steadfast devotion to a particular “Jo style.” Whether it’s a post about marriage, kids, movies, clothes, or books, I know I’m going to love it.
…when Leta says she doesn’t want to have kids I’m like WRONG. YOU HAVE TO LIVE THROUGH RAISING SOMEONE WHO IS EXACTLY LIKE YOU.
Sampler, a new Gimlet podcast, came out yesterday. I’m excited to have a podcast that features great clips from other podcasts. There’s only one episode so far, but it’s a doozie. I also like another new Gimlet show called Surprisingly Awesome, which is not 100% awesome yet but is getting there. Basically you can’t go wrong with any Gimlet show.
Song Exploder picks apart the making of a song with its songwriter. So cool! I’ve listened to these episodes twice, I liked them both so much: 1) Tune-Yards, and 2) The Long Winters (inspired by the Columbia crash).
Speaking of the Columbia, Snap Judgment #601 “The Path” includes a story about an astronaut and his wife that raised the hairs on my neck. Ditto another story from that episode in which a mother becomes an expert tracker of missing children after tracking her own.
Fugitive Waves’ Walkin’ Talkin’ Bill Hawkins was touching. If you haven’t tried this show yet, I recommend it to go along with any activity that puts you in a meditative, relaxed mood. The voices of the hosts, who call themselves the Kitchen Sisters, are so rhythmic and soothing that I can nearly fall asleep while listening.
This American Life, Episode 577: Something Only I Can See. The segment I particularly loved was the one about Tig Notaro and her mother-in-law. I love Tig’s comedy, but the best part to me about this story was that I so identified with her mother-in-law! I am not a funny person by nature except by accident or self-deprecation, and I can clearly recall this one day I got the song “Ain’t We Got Fun” in my head while folding laundry (deeply sorry for getting it in your head just now), except instead of the title lyric, I sang to myself, “It’s laundry time!” Somehow I was so giddy with the humor of this lyric swap that I could barely get the words out when telling Nate. I don’t think I need to describe his reaction, but even so, I still laugh almost just as hard now at the memory as I did at the time.
What if my kid asks to try my beer (with audio!) by Casey of Life with Roozle — because of this post, my kids never ask us for a sip of beer any more! I also love that they know what a law is enough to be able to define the concept to others.
Gretchen Rubin offered a starter kit for people interested in starting their own Better than Before habits group. I love this idea (I’m an Obliger, no surprise there). Is anyone out there interested in starting a habits group with me? I’m thinking it could be online, just a place where we can cheer each other on and keep up accountability. I’m not that into Facebook, but I could see it working well there. Or are there “LinkedIn groups”? Someone please chime in who knows more about starting online groups. Thanks!
Making a Murderer, the Netflix original series everyone is talking about. I think folks are right that it’s similar to Serial except for being a TV program. I can only recommend the first episode, as that’s all I’ve seen so far. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll watch them all. Ten hours is a long time for me to commit to TV, especially since I almost never watch TV alone, and Nate isn’t interested in seeing it. But I think the first episode is definitely worth watching, if only to remain plugged into pop culture; personally, it got me riled up so much that I am looking into volunteering with a nonprofit focused on prison reform. And if nothing else, I have some excellent articles to offer once you’ve seen the first episode. One is this article on The Rumpus by one of my favorite Boston writers (and Arlington Author Salon readers!), Lisa Borders, and the other is this New Yorker critique, which begins with interesting details about the Perry Mason crime writer that I never knew.
For something a little lighter, I recommend Reading Rainbow for parents and kids. That intro song really takes me back. I finally just had to put it on for the girls, who weren’t sold simply by a picture of a man’s face (ditto Mr. Rogers, whom they both also now love. Next up will be Pee Wee Herman). They love the 1st episode featuring “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” plus how bowling balls are made and a guy who sets up huge displays of dominoes and knocks them down.
I hope you follow Catherine Newman, aka the blogger behind Ben & Birdy and the advice columnist for Real Simple (and writer of a new book coming out soon that you can pre-order on Amazon!). I never chortle so much as when reading her blog (and just at this moment, her new website). Last night I choked on some sauerkraut while reading this post, which I’m putting under “Eat” because she gives the recipe for a delicious-sounding blueberry pie smoothie (and yes, I said choked on sauerkraut. Sauerkraut that I was eating out of the jar, that I eat every night out of the jar ever since Nate started fermenting our very own homemade sauerkraut. More on this development is forthcoming). Anyway, because I love Catherine so much, I will add my favorite quote of hers, which perfectly described my own second child, Charlie, at the age of two so much better than I ever could have.
“Even as a 2-year-old, she had the determined wrath and gait of a murderous zombie gnome — and my husband and I grimaced at each other, afraid, over her small and darkly glowering head.”
I still read her article from NYT Motherlode, where the quote originated, from time to time whenever I am worried about Charlie’s tendency to glower. Catherine reminds me that not only is it ok, it might even be a good thing. A writer who can do that is a keeper.
I’m drafting a post about turning 36, which I am happy about sharing next week. For now, here’s some interwebs goodness for all your holiday gaming needs. Some notes on this list: I just viewed it on my phone for the first time, and ack! Horrible design aesthetic. As a result, I’m going to try not bulleting the list in case it reads easier that way.
In other post-improvement news, I’m doing my best to figure out which podcasts I love that I haven’t mentioned yet. In case you find it easier to get into one with a recommended episode, I try to pick an episode that stands out, but you can also just jump in with the most recent.
My nervousness crescendoed as she squeezed my skin together. Her fascination had nothing to do with anything related to body image or fat, it was entirely about creating something from nothing that entertained her. It felt almost as if I were a witness to it, rather than a participant and I saw it for what it was; love.
Tomorrow I am giving a talk on conflict resolution at a university! That is all.
My good friend Caroline and her daughter Edie are in the National Journal! The article is called “Outdoor Preschools Take Children into Living Classroom.” I’m putting it under the “See” category because there’s a video that goes along with the article. Caroline makes some great points, my favorite of which is below, about the importance of giving kids an early introduction to nature.
“I think I’m really conscious of that in these years, that she can spend a lot of time outside and gain an appreciation for it. When she does go to kindergarten, I think she’ll have that sense in her body that she knows, ‘OK, when I go outside, I feel better, I get exercise, I get fresh air, I can use my imagination,’” Pettit said.
Have you tried a cocktail mixer called a “shrub” yet? A shrub is a drinking vinegar that I recall first reading about last year in Edible Boston. Why it took me a year and a half to try is beyond me because I was in fact one of those “closet vinegar drinkers” she refers to in the article. When I was a kid, I used to hide in the fridge and drink the pickle juice, ducking because I figured it was somehow a bad thing to do (I also used to eat sticks of butter and take swigs of maraschino cherry juice, but I’m still waiting for those odd childhood eating habits to be vindicated by the modern hipster culture scene. I can only assume I was also that baby who loved to suck lemons). Anywho, the shrub I purchased at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market came from a company—McClary Bros.—that just happened to have been featured on a recent Shark Tank, which I just happened to watch for the first and only time in a hotel room a few weeks ago. I mixed their signature apple pie flavor with a spicy ginger ale and whiskey, and the results were delightful. I declare it to be the perfect holiday cocktail, and I have no doubt it would be tasty in a warm beverage too. I’ve since tried a funky soda made of just shrub and sparkling water, and I LOVE it. What can I say, I’m a weirdo. For me, it can’t get sour enough.
It appears I haven’t mentioned 99% Invisible! Love it, too many great ones to list individually, just dive in starting with the latest.
I’m going to start sharing some of the podcasts that I know are looking for contributions. Here are a few I heard of this week:
I’ve been hearing for months from StoryCorps about the Thanksgiving Listen, their big push to get everyone to record and submit stories of their elders over Thanksgiving weekend. There’s much more info on that link, including a PDF guide.
Lea Thau of the Strangers podcast is looking for stories about how we care for loved ones in our families as they age (which, if you read my essay above, you know is an important topic to me). You can share by recording a story here or emailing your thoughts to email@example.com.
Gretchen Rubin of the Happier podcast is looking for stories about your experience with her Four Tendencies (if you’ve been following the podcast or read her new book, Better than Before). You can share by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org calling 774-277-9336 and leaving a voicemail. (Fun fact: I was the nitpicking editor who wrote to tell her she misused “backslash” in Episode 33. She must have mentioned it five times in Ep. 34, and it tickled me to no end. As a word nerd, I have gotten used to being made fun of for picking nits!)
The Great British Baking Show started up again on PBS. Another show there I’m enjoying is the new Masterpiece series called Home Fires, a drama about home life in a rural English village during the start of WWII.
So Mom and the kids would have a yummy treat (and so I could use up some apples), I made Smitten Kitchen’s breakfast apple granola crisp before leaving for Boston on Tuesday, and it was delicious. Modifications I suggest are: cover the dish with foil halfway through, cook it at 350º instead of 400º, and use 1/2 coconut flour.
Two difficult but important interviews with the same writer, Barry Estabrook, who just published a book called Pig Tales about how pigs are treated in America. I recommend listening to both interviews: Fresh Air and Splendid Table
Another reason to look forward to moving to Atlanta is to sign up for a paper (yes, paper) newsletter featuring worthy restaurants; it is created by a French woman, who was interviewed for an episode of Gravy, the Southern Foodways Alliance podcast
The One You Feed podcast featured an interview with Carol Dweck, a psychologist whose work I’ve been following since I read NurtureShock, about the growth versus fixed mindset.
I am getting our house ready to sell, but I’m here anyway because there was some stuff I was excited to share—particularly the link to recipes at the end—and I didn’t want to leave you hanging another week. Happy Mother’s Day!
Ann Patchett holds a place on my metaphorical “Who would you ask to dinner?” table. I have many reasons for my choice, not the least of which is that she would give me a good book recommendation, and I’m always in search of those.
My friend Anjali wrote an introspective piece for Bloom last year about becoming a writer after having a life; they republished it as part of a “Best Of” series.
Robin Abrahams broke down the latest episode of Mad Men and its tense workplace politics for The Boston Globe.
I’m digging the Southern Foodways Alliance podcast called Gravy. Even if you’re not from the South or don’t particularly care for Southern food (though I’m sure I can remedy that misunderstanding with an invitation to supper at our home), there are many other reasons to love this podcast, especially if you’re into topics like social justice and environmental stewardship, to list but a few.
Have you heard of The Drum? I learned about it at the Muse conference (more about that soon!). It’s a “literary magazine for your ears.” They are currently accepting submissions for poetry, essays, and short fiction that you submit by reading aloud on the site.
We’ve been trying out the new Netflix show, Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, starring Ellie Kemper (see above) and written by Tina Fey. I’ve heard it takes a few episodes to find its rhythm, which is true of many shows we loved (notably, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, and The Office) so we’re hanging in there. I’ll warn you that it’s weird, but I also burst out laughing at least once an episode, so there’s that. I loved the “You can do anything for 10 seconds” episode. Even if it was meant just as a joke, I took that advice to heart! I think the word I’m looking for is sincerity, and even when overdone, it’s so refreshing to see instead of cynics and zombies.
One of my absolute favorite cookbooks is from our local farmstand, and I just learned their recipes are online. These are family recipes, y’all, and they are delicious. If you’re vegetarian (and even if you’re not!), this list’ll just about change your life. Now I know it is overwhelming, so I recommend starting seasonally with spring vegetable strata (which I’m about to bring to a new mom as a welcome home dish) and anything strawberry or rhubarb.
Happy Friday! I’m recovering from a second gum graft today, but don’t pity me. A day spent relaxing with my girls, reading my book and introducing them to The Princess Bride, won’t be bad. Hope you’re weekend is grand. xoxo
Editor’s note: I finally figured out, thanks to editor friends at Literary Mama, that there’s a little box to check when adding links that will open them in a new tab. The wonders of WordPress!
I believe it should be a rule never to apologize for not posting to a blog, unless you can do it as well as Alice of Finslippy. Go for Bradley, FTW!
The 2015 Pulitzer prize winners, via NYT, including this great quote: “‘The research was so harrowing,’ said Mr. Doerr, 41, who lives in Boise, Idaho. ‘I thought I would never finish the book, and then I did and now a lot of people are reading it, and it’s so weird.'”
Lindsey republished her great list, “10 Things I Want My Daughter 10-Year-Old Daughter to Know” over at The Mid. I enjoyed reading it again.
Favorite tweet this week…
What sick creep put “Landslide” on my work out playlist? Are you happy? Now I’m crying. Spinning in circles waving invisible scarves.
I love to listen to bird sounds while I work, particularly if I’m in creative non-fiction mode. Is that weird? I used to listen to webcams of birds or to a Youtube of bird sounds, but this week I discovered “In a Quiet Park” by Songza, which is a fantastic music site to browse if you haven’t yet. It asks you what you’re doing to figure out what music to play.
My aunt sent me this duet from The Pearl Fishers, a lovely reminder of my first opera 20+ years ago (at which I learned I needed glasses because I had to use binoculars to see).
We’ll be in Atlanta just in time to catch Anthony Bourdain’s tour (not sure why he’s not hitting up the NE corridor). Apparently it’s heavy on the Q&A, which should be interesting. Bourdain is Nate’s big-time man crush, and I’ve warmed up to him over the years, particularly since “Parts Unknown” began airing. Who knew CNN would ever be worth watching again?
We watched Wild last night On Demand. I thought the screenplay adaptation was excellent work by Nick Hornby; I can think of one or two nits to pick, but I will say it’s very good just as it is, definitely worth watching.
I apologize if you saw my link to Force Majeure on Netflix last week and decided to watch it because of me. We watched it after I posted the link, and all I can say is I will be screening films before putting them here from now on. Yikes.
Speaking of Netflix, I’m not sure why they haven’t figured out how to let us know properly when they have a new month’s offerings, but as this is the case, here’s a list via Thought Catalog.
Thank you, Molly, for sharing this recipe for half/whole wheat scones with dates. YUM. (Not to mention the fact that I TOO love to purge books and keep only one shelf of them. Okay, two shelves, but you know).
I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book Better than Before and planning to review it officially soon, but for now, I’ll just tell you I’m enjoying it and taking notes. I’m also reading old posts of hers (like this one about abstinence versus moderation) to gain insight in how she came to decide to write the book. When I read Gretchen’s definition of habit, I was reminded of this Brain Pickings post from a few months ago about the difference between routine and ritual.
I had not read the Food Babe website prior to this week; here’s a NY Times article about her. I’m interested in a trend in the harsh judgment people (particularly moms) get and give each other over how/where they acquire health information. Do you have thoughts on this subject?
This American Life: I waited a few months to listen to the two-part Cops See It Differently series because I was waiting for a time in which I could listen to both hours in a row. I’m glad I did, but it was as hard to hear as I imagined it would be. Still, I recommend it highly.
Maybe you’ll accuse me of burying the lede, but if you follow me on Instagram you might already know: We’re moving to Atlanta this summer! I found this article listing spoken-word venues in the area. ATL friends, do you have a favorite place you’ve been for a reading?
Have you ever heard of a Morning Glory Muffin? Next to lemon ginger scones, they are my favorite treat at our local café. I decided to look up a recipe and seem to have discovered the original one from a restauranteur in Nantucket. They are basically the carrot raisin bran muffins I’ve been making for years, except a better moniker and one majorly delicious addition: coconut. I adapted my recipe (see below) to feature the new ingredient.
morning glory muffins makes 15 muffins
3/4 c. white whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. flax seed meal
3/4 c. oat bran (or Bob’s Red Mill Cereal)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (or: zucchini, summer squash)
3/4 c. chopped and toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
1/2 c. raisins or dried cranberries/currants
1/2 c. shredded coconut
3/4 c. milk, buttermilk, or thinned yogurt
1/2 c. applesauce (or: grated apple, mashed banana, or crushed pineapple)
squirt of molasses
2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350 degF. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, making a well in the center. Add carrots, nuts, dried fruit, and coconut.
2. In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring just until moist (lumps are okay; don’t over-mix). Grease muffin tins or line with paper cups; spoon muffin mix evenly in the cups.
3. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until it passes the toothpick test. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. I like to eat mine smeared with butter or coconut oil.
4. Store up to three days in an airtight container, or wrap individually in foil or wax paper and freeze in a ziplock bag.
The Washington Post reported that in terms of time spent with our kids, quality is more important than quantity. Although I’m not sure I needed more permission to ignore the girls on occasion, I’ll take it.
It is worth going back and reading this Chookooloonks post from 2011. It was the first time I can recall someone referring to “curating” her life, and though I’ve heard it said many times since, it’s never been better put than by Karen.
This post on a Harvard blog came along just as I was in the middle of writing an essay on my experience of race in Boston. It’s a worthwhile read (and discussion) that I hope you’ll share.
Have you ever thought of or participated in Toastmasters? It’s on my list of things to look into this year.
Wednesday night was the first Arlington Author Salon, and it was heaps of fun. So fun, so so many people. It ended up being standing room only! I rarely make proclamations, but here goes nothing: this author reading thing is something that will become a permanent part of my life now because I can’t imagine not getting another chance at absorbing the energy from that many positive, smiling people. I daresay that café was full of the most smiles I’ve seen since moving to Massachusetts. Maybe it’s a little strange for my hobby to be promoting other people’s writing, but if it gets me to more of these events, I’m willing to be called weird. That was way more fun than should be allowed. I embraced my status as a supreme nerd and delighted in buying all three authors’ books and having them signed.
I enjoyed this PBS documentary, Twin Sisters, about identical twins from China who are being raised in Sacramento and Norway (mentioned in the Brain, Child article linked above).
This Save the Children video to bring home the cost of war in Syria is breathtaking (Warning: cry potential is high, hankie recommended).
My cousin Alice lives in Portugal and cares for a farm of horses, cows, geese, ducks, and sometimes bees. I’ve lost track of how many. She posts gorgeous and adorable pictures of farm life—including the one above—on Instagram (@farmmeral).
Nina’s advice column about friendship gave me something to ponder. Have you ever heard of the five friendship accelerators? Fascinating stuff. She also informed me about the Mid, which reprinted three of my essays this week:
Grace is Good Enough for Us, via Momastery. I’m glad not to be the only mother with a monster inside her (p.s. I love her Instagram account).
25 Struggles Only ENFPs Will Understand, via Thought Catalog. This is 100% me; how bizarre it is to have your personality reduced to a list of 25 bullet points. Kind of cool, actually. “8. Everyone thinking you’re flirting with them, all of the time” explains a lot about my relationships with guys in high school/college. Hm.
Oh, to be Fran Lebowitz for just one day. “Can you imagine if women tried as hard as drag queens? We’d be a much more attractive culture.” Not to mention an exhausted one. Spoken like a true woman with no children.
After a dry spell, there’s good stuff in The Atlantic:
Political funnies: Who is Ted Cruz? by The Onion. Heh. I was also delighted by this dishy WaPo article on the Rayburn office decorating style of a certain congressman. That kind of horrid taste simply MUST be discussed no matter the aisle.
Good ones this week! I’m sharing two very special episodes of This American Life, both on the topic of home and how it can influence what kind of life you have (#512: House Rules & #520: No Place Like Home).
A great companion to #520 is an older episode of Strangers called Alfredo Corchado: Midnight in Mexico about a Mexican-American immigrant who grew up the son of migrant farm workers and had an opportunity later in life to report on conditions in his home country.
I’m looking forward to—slash—dreading this session at Muse & The Marketplace, during which Steve Almond will read to the audience the first page of attendees’ manuscripts, while a panel of authors listen and stop him when they hear something don’t like and explain why. Trial by fire! Terrifying, but you wouldn’t miss it, right? I figured it was an event that would help make the costly price of admission worth it, so I signed up. GULP.
Monica Lewinsky’s 2015 TED Talk on the culture of shame. You can also read a summary of the discussion here. And did you read last year’s Vanity Fair article? Prior to reading that article, I hadn’t given her much thought after the late ’90’s and had probably laughed at some inappropriate jokes. I’m glad she’s opening up our eyes to the real story behind that media storm, i.e. the betrayal of her confidence by Linda Tripp and a public humiliation cyber-bullying on a scale never before seen in history.
I have a lady-crush on chef Vivian Howard, of the PBS show A Chef’s Life; I’m looking forward to strawberry season so I can make this late-spring arugula salad (“late-spring,” ha, that’s the end of June around here) via Cary Magazine
On the flip side of that lady-crush is my break-up with Goop over her beauty milk recipe. Note the ingredients include “lucuma” and “pearl.” Okay sure, no problem, let me go and find my…WAIT THAT IS BONKERS. But we all deserve a break, so in case you’re reading this Gwynnie…